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Not crazy, not bad, not stupid. Just brain injured.

Posted May 02 2010 12:00am

I’m checking my stats today – ”head injury and now i hate myself” came up 8 times in the past week.

And I’m sure the person(s) who were searching on that were/are not alone.

Lots of us feel this way head injury and now i hate myself.  Our brains don’t work the way they used to, and so much of what we have come to understand about ourselves, which is directly related to us functioning in a certain way and being able to predict and manage our own behavior, and generally control our lives… well, a lot of that goes away.

Can it come back? I am of two minds on this point.

On the one hand, my understanding is that once fragile connections in the brain are severed, they don’t get put back together again. So, the autopilot methods for living our lives we have developed over a lifetime are fried. Shot. Gone baby gone.

BUT that does not mean that we cannot develop other pathways that help us accomplish the same results just in a different fashion. Just because the well-worn paths through the jungles of our lives are blocked by fallen trees, doesn’t mean we can’t blaze a new path (or two or three or more) and still reach our destination.  Grab that machete!

It may take time and tons of deliberate effort not to mention a whole lot more patience and perseverance than we’re inclined to devote to the effort. All those vines and shrubs and trees in the way… And all those snakes and howling monkeys… But it can happen. A new trail can emerge over time. I’m not saying that it will, 100% guaranteed. But it can. And it might.

A lot of it is up to us, and how we choose to approach our lives. It can depend on how determined we are to fix this sh*t. It can depend on how much we have to lose. It can depend on how much we hold others responsible for our difficulties. And how much ability we perceive in ourselves. It can depend on how motivated we are, and how we end up feeling after each of our attempts failed or successful, or a work in constant progress.

Of course, there will always be things out of our control. And given the  nature of this type of injury, in some cases there’s literally only so much you can do, at any given point in time. But here’s the thing, see how much we can do will necessarily change over time. We change. We grow. We improve. We fall back. But we never truly stay the same.

So, it’s important to not give up and not paint yourself into a corner, and block yourself off from the rest of the world, telling yourself over and over and over and over that you’re brain-injured, and that means you can’t have any of the things you want in your life. It’s tempting, I know. I’ve done it myself, plenty of times. But why decide you’re crippled, when you’re just re-learning to walk?

You didn’t give up learning to walk when you were a year or two old, and you kept falling down. So why start now?

Look You might not be able to have it all, but then, who can? Brain injuries can have a way of making us a lot more inclined to over-estimate and over-reach and over-react, than we would normally. It’s important to remember that, and not derail yourself over your perceptions of success and failure and what constitutes a “good life”.

And it’s important to not get hung up on externals, when it comes to how you feel about your life.  Seriously. In my situation, I am living so close to the edge, I can smell the sulphur of hellfire and brimstone from here. I’m literally a paycheck away from disaster, and I’m not in a permanent job, which makes my situation all the more precarious. And I’m the breadwinner for my family. But you know what? That situation can change. And it can change for the better. And anyway, I have to block out the chatter in my head about “You’re going down! You are so screwed! Who would want to hire you full-time, you loser?! You’re going to lose everything you worked so hard for! You’re brain-injured, and that last fall is going to do you in, big-time!”  and stay steady, no matter what. Keep my head on straight, and not let thing like a temper flare or a forgotten appointment throw me for a huge loop.

I just have to stay steady. Keep that chatter in my head down to a minimum. And do things regularly that feed me and make me feel whole and human again. Like work out each morning and wake my body and brain up. Like spend as much time as I can outside. Like connect as best I can with the people around me who are connected with me, and who can help me live my life better.

My head will tell me any old crap it feels like spouting, at the moment. And it’s usually not helpful. So, I have to use my mind, my past experience, and dedication to the kind of life I want to feel, to block out that mess. And just get on with living my life. Stay steady. Keep the faith. I have to remind myself I’m not crazy, not bad, not stupid. I’m just brain injured. And injuries either heal, or we learn to live with them. We might limp a little bit, or we might need to use a walker or wheelchair. But if we want to get from Point A to Point B badly enough, we can find a way.

I figure, if Martin Sheen can sustain a heart attack while filming Apocalypse Now and struggle 1/4 a mile to the road to get help , and then come back to filming six weeks later… and go on to have the kind of career he’s had, I can figure out a way to keep my act together.

Really, for me, it’s about keeping the faith any way that I can remembering that I’m contending with an injury that never quits, and keeping myself strong in the face of it. I can choose to beat myself up, sure. But I’d rather relax, regroup, and just get on with my life.

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